Texas fans cheer during a timeout against West Virginia at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Nov. 12, 2016 in Austin Texas. West Virginia won the game 24-20. (Photo by James Gregg/American-Statesman.)

BEVO BEAT Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 1978 season

Posted July 26th, 2017

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The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season. 

The second season under Fred Akers was another success, for the most part, as the Longhorns went 9-3 in 1978, capping the season with a 42-0 Sun Bowl win over No. 13 Maryland to end the season.

Texas’ three losses were to Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims and then No. 1 Oklahoma 31-10 and No. 8 Houston, 10-7, with one puzzling defeat to Baylor, 38-14. Texas also knocked off No. 3 Arkansas 28-21 at home. The Longhorns finished tied for second in the Southwest Conference at 6-2 and finished the season ranked No. 9 in the final poll after starting the season No. 8. Texas was ranked as high as No. 6 during the season.

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The Sooners would finish third in the nation to Alabama and USC, who split the national title. Oklahoma had been ranked No. 1 for most of the season and beat No. 6 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners made a case for a share of the championship, but settled for third.

Back in Austin, it was the second season of change for Texas. While 1977 saw wholesale changes to the program, 1978 saw Texas begin the post Earl Campbell era. The Longhorns and the I-Formation offense returned to a more spread out running game approach that was a staple of Darrell Royal’s wishbone offense. A.J. “Jam” Jones, Johnny “Ham” Jones and LeRoy King were all mixed in at running back, while Randy McEachern (the starter), Donnie Little and Mark McBath all took snaps at quarterback.

Johnny “Lam” Jones caught 25 passes for 446 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver.

But enough about offense. For the next several seasons, the stars of Texas were on the defensive side of the ball. Pound for pound, the next few seasons saw some of the best Texas defenders walk through the locker room.

Steve McMichael became a star for Texas, recording 122 tackles, 18 for a loss and eight sacks in 1978. Linebacker Bruce Scholtz and defensive tackle Bill Acker also went over a 100 tackles that season.

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Acker’s season is one of the best-ever for a pass rusher at Texas as his 14 sacks is tied with in 1980 Ken McCure and the 1977 season of Tim Campbell (hey, these dudes were also on the 1978 team) for second-most all-time in a single season.

One of the reasons Texas had players record seasons of eight (McMichael), 14 (Acker), 13 (Dwight Jefferson), 11 (Henry Williams) and nine (Steve Massey) sacks could be the defensive back field.

Led by Johnny Johnson, who had five interceptions, “DBU” included Glenn Blackwood, Ricky Churchman, Vance Bedford and Derrick Hatchett (who had 13 pass breakups).

This team also featured one of the best  linebacking units ever at Texas with  Scholtz, Lance Taylor, Doug Shankle and Robin Sendlein all in tow.

What’s even more amazing is the future No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick was also on the roster. Kenneth Sims, who played in just seven games as a freshman in 1978, recorded 24 tackles, 4.5 for a loss and three sacks for the squad. Sims, one of the greatest defensive players ever at Texas, would go to play for the New England Patriots after being taken No. 1 overall in 1982.

Akers was now 20-4 overall in two seasons at Texas. Noting that Royal inherited a much worse situation at Texas, that two-year start is better than Akers’ predecessor (who went 13-7-1 in 1957 and 1958) and is the best in school history. Berry Whitaker went 15-1-1 in his first seasons in 1920 and 1921, while Bill Juneau went 13-4 in 1917 and 1918. Blair Cherry, who went 17-4-1 in 1947 and 1948 had been the best in terms of wins before Akers, followed by Ed Price’s 16-5 record.

Mack Brown’s 18-8 record in 1998 and 1999 is the second best two-year start in Texas history.

With expectations raised, Akers’ next team would receive the No. 4 preseason ranking for 1979.

 

 

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